Despatch No 49 -
Anchored at Telefon Bay, Deception Island
62° 58 S
060° 33 W
View the up to date weather
satellite picture of the South Atlantic Ocean.
"Having resolved to move to a more secure anchorage at the
northern end of the 5km lagoon we paused briefly to exchange courtesies with the staff of
the Spanish base of Gabriel de Castilla on the southern slopes of the dormant volcano...."
After visiting the abandoned
scientific and whaling stations at the Eastern End of Port Foster, this extraordinary
inland sea in the volcanic crater of Deception Island, it is hard to believe that the
island has much more to offer the nautical nomad awaiting fair weather to continue a
passage south towards the Antarctic Peninsula of continental Antarctic mainland. We could
not have been more wrong.
Having resolved to move to a more
secure anchorage at the northern end of the 5km lagoon we paused briefly to exchange
courtesies with the staff of the Spanish research base of Gabriel de Castilla on the
southern slopes of the dormant volcano. The Commander and staff (themselves mostly
military which provided a common conversation piece - or would have done if we had spoken Spanish or they English!) could not have been more hospitable (in
a dialogue of reciprocally broken French). Each does a month in their super-heated
temporary huts monitoring seismic and other scientific programmes. The view from the
louvre windows of the well-equipped living accommodation, across the crater lake, would be
one that estate agents would croon over; despite the inevitable commute.
Moving John Laing on once more we commenced
a more serious rehearsal phase for some of the activities we plan later in the expedition
- reconnaissance of, and taking John Laing into, previously uncharted bays and anchorages.
This is a time consuming process and not without its hazards. On this occasion, Windy Gale, Si Goldby,
Sarah Piesse and Simon Holman were chosen for the key task of taking one of our small
inflatable boats into the bay in advance of the yacht with a sounding line to spot for
shallows and rocks. Meanwhile all on board prepared eventually to anchor and secure in a
bay where there is scarcely room to turn the yacht around. Nerve wracking but essential
practice and worth every nail chewed for the security of the mooring and spectacle of the
location as illustrated in Tim's panoramic photographic montage above.
But we like to think we are more than mere
tourists, and once John Laing was secure, the soundings process that was so key to the
safety of our ingress became the basis of a formal mapping and hydrographic survey that
has now taken the best part of the day to complete; thus ensuring that others might follow
in some safety and knowledge that a safe anchorage exists. This effort invested today,
predominantly by Dom Biddick, Sarah Piesse and Si Goldby will not be wasted even if future
volcanic activity changes the shape and form of the bay. In that event it will provide an
historical record of the size and shape of the coast and bay formally recorded at this
moment in time. From our perspective it is a valuable practice of the techniques and
procedures we shall be using to record our explorations just a little further south. These
are largely unchanged since the beginning of map-making. Despite the modern utility of
GPS, only human error can mar the results when the methodical process is adopted, enhanced
by, rather than being dependant on, modern equipment which can so readily fail in this
I shall let one of the team describe the process in more detail in a later despatch but
suffice it to say Joint Leader Dick Pattison took the opportunity to reflect the
methodology in his choice of survey attire!
Like all the data recorded by the
expedition, the information gathered will be made available to the UK Hydrographic Office,
the British Antarctic Survey, the Scott Polar Research Institute and other official bodies
as well as providing a permanent record for our own memories. Few others can claim with
such certainty that they can personally verify a chart sounding below the high water mark
(unless they have run their vessel aground of course - which we have not!!!).
Meanwhile others in the party have been equally active. Harry
Scrope allowed a tinge of homesickness perhaps to persuade him to climb to the summit of
nearby Wensleydale Beacon whilst James Harris took a small party of winter mountaineering
initiates for an introduction to safety and survival techniques on the cinder strewn snows
on the slopes above the yacht. Amongst them, "Journo Sam" (Sam Greenhill), our
onboard Press Association hack, who is with John Laing for this leg to provide the
paparazzi line on us all to the national and local media. We cannot complain - we invited
him along and he has proved every much one of the team. (Joking aside, we are fortunate
indeed to have a journalist from a national news agency onboard for this important leg.
Sam can provide pieces of any length for all media types throughout the progress of the
Expedition - Editors please contact the Project Office, the Press Association or local
Army Media offices for contact details if required).
The weather forecast has confirmed our fears and the wisdom of
remaining here another night or two - a deep low pressure area will transit the area over
the next 48 hours and it would have been imprudent to have set off south into such
uncertain conditions without the security of a known safe anchorage to head for. On
current plans we shall look to leave this amazing island late on Sunday for the final
overnight passage down to the Danco Coast. Time spent waiting will not have been wasted.
Tomorrows plans look to build on each area of todays activities. In the
meantime it is snowing.
Joint Expedition Leader
Flashback to the Falkland Islands
an expedition such as this, medical problems are bound to arise. Sixteen people will
be living in difficult and at times dangerous conditions, thousands of miles from their
doctor, dentist or hospital.
Most of these problems will be minor, however
serious injuries and illness may occur.
Our medical kit reflects this broad range of
possibilities. We have everything from creams for sunburn and rashes, headache
tablets, right up to plaster cast for broken bones, strong antibiotics and morphine.
We even have anaesthetics and surgical instruments for operations.
So far, thankfully, nothing so dramatic has
been needed. I have handed out lots of seasickness pills, lanced a abscess and taken
out a splinter.
& design by Tim Hall ABIPP
(Roll mouse over photos for captions )
It's cooler on the
John Laing than at Rothera Point!
temperature at Rothera)
67.6° S 68.1° W